Costigan / Getting high on Canberra’s coffee economy

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The coffee economy… Digital imagery by PAUL COSTIGAN

ACROSS Canberra there continues to be multiple presentations by developers on their wonderful sets of towers and apartments that are changing our horizons. Soon you will see less of the surrounding hills – but at least you will be able to have a cup of coffee.

Paul Costigan.

The common aspect of all these vibrant urban developments is that they are always promoted as offering a café or two or three. Canberra has definitely positioned itself, not as a public sector town, but as a national coffee economy. I hope you are reading this in a café with coffee in hand and thus contributing to this city’s economy.

People used to meet occasionally in a milk bar or a tea room. Does anyone make real tea anymore? Today if you make contact with someone, good chance that they will suggest meeting in a café. There you will join others in small and large groups having all manner of social and business meetings – while drinking coffee.

Watch the city’s CBD promotions as they boast about how wonderful and vibrant the café scene is in so many city areas. Watch the presentations by developers for inner-city apartments and they always trot out how close your dream cubicle will be to places for taking your daily dose. If the owner of Tilley’s in Lyneham had a dollar for every time a real estate agent advertised that your new home is close to Tilley’s and how you will be enjoying coffee at the “Paris End of Town”, she would be challenging Gina Rinehart on the top rich list.

One aspect of this coffee vibrancy that must irk a certain chief minister is that many suburban caffeine outlets are dominated by older folks during morning shifts and sometimes for late coffees. With his snide comments about older generations, he must dread being caught alone in a crowded cafe surrounded by grey hair. One wonders what these caffeine-boosted older peoples might say to him.

When they gather together in large numbers, these older generations like to talk, and talk and talk. This can cause troubles for staff that like to play boomf boomf music. Didn’t work out so good for one franchisee in Dickson. A couple of years ago they opened as Bean and Grain – but given the music and the change of style – soon it was ‘been and gone’ – closed and the space remains vacant.

If by chance you were to wander into a café frequented by public sector “taggers” (for the things around their neck or off their clothing), then be ready to be caught out. There are secret tagger rules in such cafés on how you order coffee, where to stand and at which part of the counter you must go to pick up.

The other thing you will notice is that so many must clock in and then take off for a quick walk to their nearest caffeine outlet, as there are usually taggers’ queues early in the day – as well as at break times and meeting times throughout the busy days. I suspect that many planning decisions are made in the café next to the Planning Directorate in Dickson. Maybe all that caffeine is responsible for the many weird decisions.

The other day I was in a café frequented by lawyers, solicitors and possibly a few shady clients – all having coffee. Doesn’t anyone have meeting rooms anymore? And why does this profession dress so badly?

So, as our new urban authorities oversee the transition of this city from being the bush capital to a far more vibrant and exciting place to live with towers and vibrant cubicle apartments everywhere, their real challenge is how to squeeze even more cafés into every tower site so that the economy will continue to grow on the back of bags of beans – coffee that is.

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